Jesse Jackson

(TriceEdneyWire.com)—Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel sincerely wants to do something to improve Chicago schools. I have no doubt of that. Unfortunately, his proposal —called “Learn. Plan. Succeed.”—falls short of the mark.

His idea is to add a new requirement for high school graduation. Starting in 2020, all students eligible for a high school diploma would, in order to graduate, have to demonstrate that they have a job, admission to college, an apprenticeship or internship, a place in a gap-year program or an enlistment in the military. Emanuel touts the plan as requiring every graduate to have a plan for their lives before they get their diploma. “If you change expectations,” he says, “it’s not hard for kids to adapt.”

Sounds good, right? But the City Colleges of Chicago, a system of seven community colleges, already guarantees admittance to any high school graduate. So all the high schools will do is get every graduating senior to apply for admission, whether they intend to go or not. That will require a dramatic increase in school counselors, of course, and there’s no budget for that. (The mayor says he’ll try to raise $1 million from private donors to help.)

Chicago has the worst black unemployment of any of the five biggest cities in the country. Across the U.S., a staggering 51.3 percent of young black high school graduates are unemployed or underemployed (that is, forced to work part time involuntarily or giving up on finding a job).

A majority of young black high school graduates are looking for full-time work and can’t find it. The mayor’s plan does nothing to address this grim reality. Instead, it erects a paperwork hoop for kids to jump though that is likely to have very little to do with their plans for their lives.

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